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11-23-2019, 05:27 AM - 19 Likes   #1

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Pentax 100 - Little-known information about brand history

During the Pentax 100 year celebration month, Pentax is running a series of talks and one of them was by Fumio Nakamura (中村文夫). I attended his presentation a couple of weeks ago, and while there are some things I have surely forgotten, these are the parts I thought would be interesting.

Nakamura-san is a photographer and writer now, but formerly a Pentax employee who worked for them through most of the 80s and 90s. It seems that among other things, he was responsible for putting together brochures. As an example, he mentioned that all the photography in the LX brochure was done by him and a lot of the other brochures around that time,.

This presentation was titled “Things you didn’t know about Pentax”, and it was basically a series of “Did you know?” trivia about Pentax. As a result, it was a bit random, but quite interesting nonetheless.

AOCO’s first lens
Towards the beginning of the presentation, he showed a copy of the first product ever made in the Asahi factory. It was a simple metal barrel with a lens in it. There were other interesting items he showed, like a lens branded Takuma (not Takumar). He also had some old scopes, binoculars, limited edition cameras and clear plastic models of some 80s era film cameras.

SMC coating on everything
The SMC coating is something Pentax has always been proud of. It was generally thought to have been introduced on the Super-Takumar Zoom 85-210mm F4.5. However, it seems that the last batch of the Super-Takumar Zoom 70-150mm F4 was also made with SMC coating on it. In fact the original explanations of what SMC was included diagrams with the formula of the 70-150mm. These copies are not marked, but it’s really obvious that the coating is different when you see them one beside the other.

There was a time when Pentax was so crazy about SMC that they were coating even pointless parts of cameras with it. For example, the face of the little clock inside the LX (bottom-left n the below image) is SMC coated. That function was developed at the request of the police and security forces, and Nikon made something similar as well, but he joked that Nikon’s can’t have been as good without SMC coating.

Pentax’s role in inventing DX coding
He told the story of how Pentax influenced the standard for DX coding on film. It seems that Kodak had proposed the basic idea of using a code to communicate film specification to camera manufacturers. Their proposal involved a series of perforations in the film itself at the beginning of the film. They showed the diagrams from Kodak’s proposal with a square 8x8 (I think) grid of perforated dots. This would be read by the camera as it pulled the film in. However, the camera makers found this impractical and prone to failure. So it was actually Pentax that came up with the idea of metallic regions on the film cylinder and contacts in the camera to read the pattern. Ironically, it was Fujifilm that was more cooperative and proactive in actually releasing DX films, rather than Kodak who came up with the idea in the first place.

SMC Takumar 2000mm f16 Prototype
One of the old Pentax locations in Maenocho Tokyo has recently been demolished to make way for new apartment complex. While they were clearing out the basement, they found some interesting things. The one they showed was an old prototype for a “compact” 2000mm f16 lens using mirrors. It had a handwritten note on it that says “SMC TAKUMAR, 1:16 f-2000mm, 240001 ASAHI OCT.CO. JAPAN”, and it is a weird thing to say the least.

I don’t find any reference to this on the internet, and it sounds like no-one remaining in the company had a recollection of it. They only had photos to show on screen, so excuse the quality of these extreme crops from my GR III.

Pentax as part of the old and new National Stadium
I made a post a couple of years ago about the old Pentax HQ building in Tokyo, and the mosaics that adorn it its exterior. Here is the post if you’re interested.

Pentax mosaics on old HQ building -

It seems that around the same time AOCO also commissioned a mural by the same artist to be incorporated in the National Stadium to be used for the 1964 Olympics. He showed it on screen and pointed out the lens-like motifs in it, which are similar to those on the old HQ building.

With the 2020 Olympics coming, that stadium has been demolished now and a new one built in it’s place. The stadium itself is actually pretty much complete now. My train passes it on the way to work. After a period of uncertainty, it has been decided that that AOCO mosaic and other artworks from the old stadium will be incorporated in the new building.

So when you see footage of the games in the new stadium next year, you can know that even if most of the journalists these days are using other brands, there is a little piece of Pentax in the fabric of the building.

Also see Nippon Camera
I found that the latest issue of Nippon Camera magazine has a section on Pentax history authored by Nakamura-san, which contains a lot of the same content that he showed in this presentation, including his hunt for the original factory of Asahi, which now long gone and under a completely different street grid in a suburban area of Tokyo.

Finally, if you like this kind of report and missed it, this is the second one I've done, and the other is about the FA Limiteds in the lens forum.
The FA Limited Development Story (also a little DA Limited) -

Last edited by JPT; 11-23-2019 at 05:50 AM.
11-23-2019, 06:43 AM   #2
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good report,thanks!
11-23-2019, 06:46 AM   #3
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Wonderful, thanks for sharing.
11-23-2019, 06:57 AM   #4
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That SMC Takumar 2000mm f16 is interesting!! Thank you for sharing!!

11-23-2019, 09:00 AM   #5
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Excellent report/mini-article (and the one on the Limited series is superb as well)! Thanks so much for doing this.
11-23-2019, 09:29 AM   #6
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Another excellent post! Thank you for taking notes and sharing! The photo of the misc "stuff" is intriguing in that it apparently includes a 6x6 120 rangefinder camera. Do we know anything about the Mine Six?

11-23-2019, 11:27 AM   #7
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Thanks for the excellent report. Very nice!
11-23-2019, 11:42 AM   #8
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Really interesting info, thanks.

11-23-2019, 01:09 PM   #9
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Excellent report. Lots of interesting insights, would be interesting to see that 2000mm lens show up at cp+ with a Q mounted on it
11-23-2019, 01:19 PM   #10
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Very cool report! I really love the fact that the mural will make it to the new stadium. I just hope it gets used after the games and doesn't fall into disrepair like a lot of recent Olympic venues.
11-23-2019, 02:11 PM   #11
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Great report (and the others as well). Very interesting. Thanks for putting it together!

Did Nakamura-san say what became of the 2000mm lens?
11-23-2019, 02:11 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by JPT Quote
There was a time when Pentax was so crazy about SMC that they were coating even pointless parts of cameras with it. For example, the face of the little clock inside the LX (bottom-left n the below image) is SMC coated.
What is the "little clock"? Do you mean the clock on the LX data back?
11-23-2019, 09:42 PM   #13
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Really interesting, thanks for sharing!
11-24-2019, 07:20 PM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by JPT Quote
One of the old Pentax locations in Maenocho Tokyo has recently been demolished to make way for new apartment complex.
I live near that building. It was part of the old PENTAX headquarters before the Hoya takeover. It's last use was as Pentax Imaging Systems headquarters. After the Ricoh purchase of Pentax Imaging, it was used for all of Ricoh's camera business until they decided to move the entire operation to the Ricoh head office across town several years ago. The building has since just sat there unused until it was recently sold. The building has not been demolished yet, but it won't be around long. Here is a photo of it this morning.
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12-08-2019, 06:31 AM   #15
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Thanks to both JPT and Albert for sharing these little nuggets of brand history.

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